The winning streaks, the losing streaks, the come-from-behind wins, the thrills and the heartbreaks all have led to this–White Sox Game 162.
Tomorrow afternoon it’ll be Edwin Jackson trying to end the Sox season on a high note, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks–four of the five holdovers from the 2005 champions–all will be facing the possibility of suiting up for the White Sox for the last time and Konerko will attempt to hit his 40th home run in what has been a remarkable year for the All-Star.
Following the game, I will post a look back at the season and also focus on what might happen in the off-season as the Sox try to improve and be more formidable in 2011.
Note: For the record, Mark Buehrle, who tonight won his 13th game to finish .500 for the season, is the other current White Sox player to win a World Series ring in ’05. Under contract in ’11, he will definitely be back in the fold.
Dayan Viciedo (above), Brent Morel (below), Tyler Flowers and Alejandro De Aza found themselves in the Sox starting lineup last night as the likes of Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez and the injured Gordon Beckham were firmly planted on the bench in the third base dugout.
Ozzie apparently felt that giving the youngsters some playing time was more important than the Sox extending their three-game winning streak and finishing the season a game shy of 90 victories. The Good Guys wound up losing to the Tribe, 7-3, after Tony Pena surrendered three runs in the first.
With so many questions that need to be answered, it’s impossible to predict what roles, if any, the above four prospects will have with the big league club in 2011. In my view, Morel could certainly be the starting third baseman and Viciedo either a DH or maybe the first baseman if Konerko doesn’t return. With his great speed, De Aza is a possible fourth or fifth outfielder. Pun intended, the bloom could be off the Flowers rose. He no longer looks like the blue-chipper both the Braves and White Sox thought he was. I would be surprised if he’s in the picture next season.
With two games remaining, it’s uncertain who Ozzie will put on the field. But there is still something to play for. I would like to see Mark Buehrle get to the .500 mark tonight with his 13th win and it would be a nice sendoff for Edwin Jackson, who has been less than stellar lately, to shine in his last start of the season.
I don’t have to tell you how important Paul Konerko has been to the White Sox. Paulie and Mark Buehrle have been the core of the Sox for the past decade, which has seen the Pale Hose bring a world title and three division titles to the South Side. And in this day and age of bad athlete behavior, Konerko and Mr. Perfect have been two of the most solid citizens in the world of sports. We’ve been privileged to have them in our uniform.
Last night, Konerko smashed a grand slam off of 19-game winner Jon Lester to help give the Sox an 8-2 victory over Boston. What was a wonderful moment also was a bit bittersweet. With Paulie a free agent, it was hard to ignore the fact that his blast could be the last one he hits for the White Sox. Not a happy thought.
Will Paulie be back in 2011? Here’s Konerko’s take:
“I think where they (the Sox) stand right now is probably just figuring out where they want to go as a team. I’m kind of secondary. That goes for the other guys here who are in the same boat. Obviously it’s a business, so they have to figure out payroll stuff and when they do that, then hopefully I’m in their conversation, as far as being brought back. Until then, I don’t know what will happen…and I’m telling you it could be a better deal than anyone else’s and I decide to go somewhere because what I’m feeling for myself and everybody involved in that moment. That’s the honest truth.”
Paulie also addressed the 800-pound gorilla–the Twins:
“It’s not just about the talent on the field. It’s no different than Little League. It’s not always the talent that finishes first, second third as far as who has that on paper. I do think that (the Twins) are a great team on paper, too. Probably at this moment a better team. So if you’re not the better team you have to do a lot of things to catch them that are beyond the talent. That’s something that will have to be addressed if they want to go in that direction.”
Sox note of note: Last night’s victory was the 86th for the Sox, assuring them of finishing at least 10 games above the .500 mark with the three games to go against the Indians. They’ve already clinched second place and are now seven games behind the Twins, hoping to make the final standings look more respectable. It may seem that these facts are insignificant, but I, for one, am happy the Hose are finishing on a high note.
After the scoreboard flashed the Twins’ five-run first inning in Cleveland and the Royals put a six spot on the board before the Sox came to bat at the Cell, it seemed like it was time to fly the white flag for the 2010 White Sox.
However, like they have so many times this season the South Siders showed amazing resiliency today and not only overcame the large deficit but in the end even doubled K.C.’s total with an impressive 12-6 triumph.
By the fourth inning the Sox had tied the score at 6-6, powered by a pair of two-run home runs by MVP candidate Paul Konerko. They finished the job with six runs in the sixth, highlighted by Andruw Jones‘ first career pinch-hit grand slam.
Paulie’s 3 for 4 day, with the two homers, five RBI and three runs scored, have given him these gaudy statistics through Sunday’s games: a .322 BA, 36 roundtrippers, 104 RBI and nearly a .400 on base percentage.
The Hose remain six games in back of Minnesota, who today finished off the Tribe, 6-2. It’s now showdown time starting Tuesday as the Sox and Twins meet in a three-game series in Chicago. It’s hard to imagine that we can sweep the Twinkies and even if we do, we’ll still be three games behind. But that’s why they play the games.
Here are the pitching matchups:
Tuesday: John Danks vs. Francisco Liriano
Wednesday: Gavin Floyd vs. Brian Duensing
Thursday: Mark Buehrle vs. Carl Pavano
While there has been Manny talk all day, all night and all week, when the White Sox needed a boost this afternoon it was South Side mainstay Paul Konerko who had the last word. His eighth inning three-run homer overcame a subpar Sox performance and paced his teammates to a 6-4 comeback victory and a sweep of the depleted Indians in Cleveland.
Paulie, whose season has been nothing short of sensational, is now hitting .319 with 33 homers, 98 RBIs and an OPS of .986.
For most of the game the Sox were stymied by rookie Carlos Carrasco and their own defense, which committed three errors. But a home run by Alexei, not Manny, Ramirez in the eighth and Konerko’s clutch blast later in the inning made up for it. It also didn’t help that Freddy Garcia gave way to Tony Pena after four innings because of a strained lower back.
The game was also highlighted by Alex Rios‘ 20th homer of the season, which gave The Good Guys a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and Chris Sale‘s first save of his career. Manny reached base twice in his Sox debut. He singled and was hit by a pitch.
It’ll be a day off tomorrow, then three games in Boston against two tough customers–Clay Buchholz and John Lackey–on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s Red Sox starter is TBA. We’ll counter with John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle. One bit of good news for us is that Matt Thornton is expected to be ready for action after a stint on the DL.
Oh yeah, I might have buried the lead. Manny will be returning to the scene of the crime.
All the frustration from two weeks of blown leads, walkoff homers and the loss of a division lead came to an abrupt halt last night as the White Sox exploded with the 11-0 victory over the Twins.
When any team in this situation is badly in need of a win, they look to their leaders. The Sox are no exception and theirs came through big-time with a whole lot of help from the troops as The Good Guys hurled a shutout and pounded out 21 hits.
The leaders–three grizzled vets from the 2005 champs–rose to occasion in a huge way. Paul Konerko, enjoying a monster season, went 5 for 5 with his 31st homer and four RBI; Mark Buehrle pitched seven innings of scoreless, five-hit ball; and A.J. Pierzynski, struggling through an offensive season he’d like to forget, added two hits and two RBI.
Adding to the barrage were three-hit nights from Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Alexei Ramirez and Mark Teahen. And, by the way, check out these averages: Pierre is hovering around .280 while Vizquel and Ramirez are both in the .290 neighborhood. A far cry from earlier in the season.
As I live and die with the Pale Hose on a daily basis, it’s always good to get a reality check from one of the guys in my Sox posse. Here’s some wisdom from Tim Clodjeaux, a former Sox PR guru:
“Keep in mind that this ‘meltdown’ is not as bad on paper as it has been to watch. Since the break the Sox are 17-17. Playing .500 ball will not win you many pennants, but it is far from a collapse. It just looks bad because of the nine losses in 12 games prior to tonight–and the way we lost many of those nine. And the Twins, on the other hand, are now 24-9 since the break. So while the Sox have stumbled, the Twins have deservedly made their move to the top of the standings.”
Let me state the obvious: It’s a very long season with many ups and downs. If you don’t believe it’s true, just look at where the White Sox were at the beginning of June.
Where they are now is an interesting subject to ponder. You can look at how much ground they’ve gained in the last two months and see them in a positive position. Or you can look at the last seven games where they were 2-5 against the Orioles and Twins. You can also judge where they are in the standings two ways–you can say that they are ONLY a game out of first or you can view it as a huge disappointment that they’re now out of first place and a full game behind the Twins.
All this doesn’t matter because it’ll be played out on the field. But the troubling thing to me is that we lost two of three to Minnesota at home and last night’s 6-1 defeat was as disappointing and demoralizing a loss that the Sox have had since beginning their turnaround. Add to that, the sinking feeling that comes from seeing that however we’re playing and whatever we do, the Twins are that much better on a consistent basis. It also doesn’t make me any happier that we face them three more times next week at Target Field.
Much of what I’ve written above comes from the frustration of watching the Sox load the bases three times last night–once with no outs and once with one out–and come up empty each time in what was, at this point at least, a pivotal game.
OK, that’s enough. We have to move on. And the Sox will do exactly that tonight against the Tigers behind Mark Buehrle. For the record, I’ll be scoreboard watching with the Twins hosting the A’s.
Sox notes of note: The Sox sent Dayan Viciedo back to Charlotte after the game last night and brought Mark Teahen back from his rehab assignment. Viciedo will surely be brought up September 1 when the rosters expand. For a while it looked like it was going to be a tough decision, but Viciedo’s play both offensively (no walks, too many strikeouts) and defensively (very shaky at third) made it an easier call for the club’s brass to send down Dayan and recall Teahen.